Why Community Ownership and Supporter Involvement?
There are several key beneﬁts to community ownership. Below are some of the areas in which such an ownership structure can greatly beneﬁt a football club and its community.
A community ownership model has a range of unique features that make them the ideal form for football clubs, including:
- Community Investment: allows members to invest in the club using a unique form of share in a way that’s fair to both the club and the member, called community shares.
- Democratic Ownership: one-member-one-vote ensuring everyone has a vote in electing directors, and be consulted on big decisions about the long-term interests of the club
- Asset Protection: added protection that prevents the assets of the Club being distributed among individuals and helps removes speculative interest not interested in the club’s wellbeing
- Community Objectives: written into the articles or rules of the club. Presenting the true values to partners that the club exists for the wider community, not individuals
- Limited Liability: collective ownership of assets and liabilities, protecting the club, its members and Directors
- Reinvesting Profits: any surplus being reinvested into the club or maintained to keep sensible reserves
- More Volunteers: with more people involved in the ownership as members or investors, there is more collective interest and involvement in the club
- More attractive for Grant Funding: given the right project, the model of community ownership is more appealing to public funding bodies.
They also benefit the communities they operate in because the rewards are shared among the people who work within the business rather than going to a single owner or external shareholder as is the case in more traditional structures.
The major benefit of community ownership of a business is it gives the community a greater influence in how the organisation operates, in turn leads to superior business performance.
The community are no longer passive customers, but co-own the business, which can mean:
1. improved supporter loyalty,
2. members of the community will often volunteer to help in ways which they would not do for a privately owned business.
3. Community owned businesses tend to be more sustainable (less likely to fail than traditionally owned businesses) and are able to take a longer-term view as there are no external shareholders requiring short-term returns.
4. Of the 300 community shops taken over in the last decade, only a handful have failed. Every one of the community co-operative football clubs in the UK is still trading.
Our research also suggests that the other benefits of supporter ownership can be seen through the following four key areas.
- It allows clubs to develop deeper and more long-term strategic partnerships.
- A greater sense of shared agendas and partnerships between local authorities, clubs and business.
- Ownership structure and increased transparency helps build trust between organisations.
- Easier for supporter community owned clubs to align agendas with public or private strategic partners, meeting strategic objectives.
- Community ownership creates a greater sense of ﬁnancial responsibility; an increased recognition for clubs to live within their means.
- It allows clubs to raise ﬁnance in other, more innovative ways; such as through ‘Community Shares’.
- Placing clubs in the hands of supporters allows more transparency in terms of clubs’ ﬁnances and makes relevant information more accessible to fans.
- Sponsors are attracted to community owned clubs due to their high attendance ﬁgures when compared with competitors at the same level; e.g. FC United of Manchester and AFC Wimbledon.
- It is also the reputational value of sponsors being associated with a club owned by its’ supporters that is added value for sponsors.
- Reputational value can help to forge longer-term relationships between club and sponsor.
Transparency, Openness and Trust
- All supporters trust owned clubs have to publish annual accounts which have to be approved by members at their AGM.
- Provides a level of scrutiny and recourse for supporters as well as a level of public transparency that is often lacking at other clubs.
- Level of openness and transparency a key factor in developing and maintaining strategic partnerships, notably with public authorities and with fans.